Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Recovery Drinks

A few years ago when I was doing research for The Paleo Diet for Athletes it became clear that the recovery drinks on the market were missing out on one significant issue. They were all pretty good at replacing carbohydrate and sodium, and some also had protein, which some research shows is beneficial for recovery. But none of them addressed post-workout acidosis which I believe will eventually prove to be important for endurance athletes, especially older folks like me. You can read more about this acid/base balance issue on the Free Resources/Training Tips page at my Training Bible website.

For some time I had the athletes I coach make their own "homebrew" recovery drink and I described the recipe in the book. But after the book was printed an opportunity came along for me to design my own recovery drink to make the process of recovery easier for those I coach. In 2006 we came out with a product called, appropriately, "Recover." Now all the athletes I coach have to do is blend the powder mix with fruit juice, fruit and ice to make a great tasting drink that also addresses all of their recovery issues including acidosis.

Here's the ad: You can order Recover by going to this website. While there you will notice that there are three other sports drinks also offered. Each is designed using the latest research on sports nutrition and each was created for a unique situation, as their names imply: "Short & Fast," "Heat Mix", and "Going Long." We've had great feedback from athletes on how well each of these works for their intended situations. If you decide to try them please let me know what you think.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Plyometrics Research

There is a growing body of research supporting the benefits of plyometrics for endurance athletes. The most recent is a study out of New Zealand using cyclists as subjects (Paton, 2005, Combining explosive and high-resistance training improves performance in competitive cyclists, J Strength Cond Res 19(4): 826-30). In this study nine well-trained riders did three, thirty-minute workouts weekly for four weeks. Each workout consisted of alternating three sets of explosive jumps with three sets of high-resistance bike sprints (5 x 30 sec @ 60-70 rpm with 30 sec recoveries). After 12 weeks the experimental group improved their 1km power by 8.7%, their 4km power by 8.1%, peak power by 6.8% and their LT power by 3.7%. These are huge changes in performance for only 12 sessions especially given that the riders were already well-trained. The total oxygen cost of these power tests decreased by 3% indicating greater economy. There was no significant change in the control group.

An Australian study done with runners using only plyometrics and not resisted running as in the above cycling research showed benefits also but to a lesser degree (Spurrs, 2003, The effect of plyometric training on distance running performance, Eur J Appl Physiol 89(1): 1-7). The well-trained group of runners improved their 3km race time, on average, by only 2.7%. But then this study only lasted for six weeks and did not include resisted running in a manner similar to what the cyclists did in the above.

This winter I am using combined plyometric and resisted high-intensity exercise with the triathletes and road cyclists I coach. After a few weeks of preparation in which they followed the weight training program described in my Training Bible books culminating with the MS phase, they embarked on a program of two or three such plyo-sprint sessions weekly for four to six weeks (8-12 sessions total). Each session took about 30 minutes and included three sets of 10-20 box jumps (see picture) alternated with three sets of five of either resisted, 20-30 second sprints as in the first paragraph (cyclists) or 20-30 second treadmill sprints at a 5% grade (runners). The intensity was to feel like a 9 on a 10-point effort scale.

I reduced the number of sessions per week and the length of the high-intensity efforts for those who I felt were at high risk for injury. But even in doing that one of the runners slightly strained a hamstring (fortunately, it healed quickly) and I terminated the series of workouts early for another runner who strained a calf in other training. Since none of the others have completed the series of workouts yet or been retested, I don't have anything to report. All have reported feeling like the workouts were beneficial. Time will tell, but I believe we will see significant improvement.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Aero Head

A couple of weeks ago I went to the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel with one of the athletes I coach, Ralph Heath from LaCrosse, WI, and bike-fit-expert Chris Pulleyn from Scottsdale, AZ. The purpose of the trip was to fine tune Ralph’s triathlon position which Chris had previously set. We spent two hours in the tunnel making minute changes and then checking progress every few minutes by turning on the wind.

Basically, we found that Chris’ original set up was very close. Only minor changes were made and these gained only a few seconds until near the end of our visit (we measured progress in seconds gained in a one-hour time trial).

The biggest changes came from focusing on Ralph’s head. The picture above on the left was Ralph’s normal head position. As we got his head down into the “turtle” position as you see in the right picture we gained something like 20 seconds. But we decided to try different helmets since in the turtle position the tail of the Rudy Project helmet he was wearing rose in the back—this despite putting the helmet as far back on his head as possible. When we went to a Louis Garneau helmet (see picture below) with his head in the turtle position. We gained something like a whopping 55 seconds more. This was probably because the LG helmet design kept the trailing edge closer to his back with less turbulent drag behind the head.

So with two hours in the tunnel Ralph gained 77 seconds over his starting position with most of this coming from changing helmets and getting his head down lower. I’m afraid many helmets on the market that are marketed as “aerodynamic” are actually less aerodynamic than a standard road helmet. And even wearing a decent helmet with the front down close to the eyebrows, while it may look good, is actually slower than with the helmet’s leading edge worn closer to the hairline in front.

To see one run from Ralph’s wind tunnel go to http://www.ovationmarketing.com/ralph/ralph_result.html (it's slow to start).

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Biomac shoes

There have been a couple of mentions of Goetz Heine's Biomac shoes in the original post and the follow up comments. Here is a picture of his shoe design with the centered cleats. This is the shoe I use and the one Leo refers to in his recent comment.

They are remarkably light--the lightest shoes I have ever worn by far. Without the cleat and insole, each shoe seems to weigh just a bit more than my Oakley sunglasses (I haven't actually weighed them yet).

I showed the Shimano shoe in my original post (below) to illustrate how "some" shoes could be modified to accommodate the centered cleat. But I wouldn't recommend getting out a drill and doing so without learning a lot more about cleat placement. Not all shoes can be modified due to their uneven surfaces in the arch areas.

To learn more about Biomac go to http://www.biomac.biz/.

Labels: ,